Here's a pretty exciting idea, which I guess some number of people are experimenting with -- crowd sourcing peer review. Ohio University Press will be publishing soon a volume called Subjecting History: Building a Relationship Between History and Its Alternatives. The volume asks how the perspectives of historians and the public differ about history. That is, the volume makes history the subject of study. Cribbing now from the book's website, the editors Trevor R. Getz and Thomas G. Padilla are interested in question such as: how well academic scholarship represents past? Does it align or conflict with nonacademic ways of understanding the past? What are ways that academic scholarship can better represent the past without appearing to ignore interpretations that run counter to it? These questions are important and I'd think that down the road one might address how judges think about history, perhaps differently from how academics historians think about it.
As part of an NSF funded experiment in open peer and public review, the editors have put drafts of the chapters on the net and are asking for public comment. You can read all the chapters and then comment on them. Just to be clear, these are drafts that are still undergoing revision. And this I find particularly interesting -- the Press may include the public comments in their final volume. The essays deal with a bunch of different micro-level stories -- one, for instance, deals with a Rhode Island playground named after a child who passed away in the late nineenth century. Reminds me of how a lot of people use parks to create memorials to their friends -- and also in the early twentieth century used restrictive covenants to control who could use the park.
I learned about this because my friend Jim Hall of the University of Alabama has a chapter on how the University preserved (and in some cases removed) the ruins of the campus after it was burned by the United States army at the conclusion of the Civil War. The short version of Jim's story is that campus was largely burned at the conclusion of the War and some of the ruins were maintained for several decades (and in fact a few ruins are still on the campus). All of this is tragic -- the University was yet another of the many, many victims of the extraordinary violence unleashed by the war (and that preceeded the war during the era of slavery). The library was one of the many buildings burned. And so we lost the collection of books -- though if you're interested in this, here's a catalog of the books in that library. One of these days I'm going to write something about that collection. There's also an important story about the compensation that the federal government gave the University (in the form of land in the late nineteenth century).
The image is of the University of Alabama's campus before the War. As the caption indicates, the Mound (one of the ruins that Jim writes about) is on the site of the Washington Dormitory.